Thursday, July 19, 2012
It's All In The Name
I was thinking about names. A friend became a first time grandparent today and her granddaughter has been given a trendy name. You know how that goes. The Conors and the Taylors and the Bethanys and the Jacobs.
In my time, in Ireland, the all-powerful Catholic church had an incredible influence on naming one's child. Always after a saint, sometimes after a holy nun or a holy priest (the adjective 'holy' was always attached to these sainted clerics, along with "Holy God" and "Holy Mary" - God's baby mama.)
Suggestions were made by the clerics and were enforced. The baby was often dragged away to the church as the mother lay recovering from the labour and her wishes disregarded as the priest pronounced his preference over the child's freshly baptized wet head. Seriously. That was so in my case. I joined a multitude of same-names, identified for years by our surnames in schools and offices. Individuality was not encouraged.
Those of unusual names (Olive, Celine, Violet, et al) were mocked by the nuns as being almost Protestant - " Was your mother not of the faith?", "Is your father a West Briton?".
Yanks (Americans) were mocked for naming the boys "Junior" after the father. "Did they not care enough about him to give him his own saintly name?"
As to us, the same-named girls, we mocked the Assumptas and the Conceptas and the Immaculatas - named for the various life stages of the above-mentioned Holy Mary and more infrequently for the great-aunt nuns who had some influence over the family naming.
My late dear M-I-L approved of the names I had chosen for her grandchildren but could be heard pitifully bleating over the choice made by her other D-I-L.
"Brooke?" she said to me, almost weeping into her afternoon sherry, "What kind of person names her child after a stream, tell me that."
I wanted to quote Bob Dylan and his Times They Are A-Changin' but just clucked in sympathy as I poured us another.
I've known a few who changed their names. I'd always wanted to but didn't have the guts. Tried to in Italy back in the day but was met with derision when I attempted the shift at home so reverted.
It's too late now. Plus I really have grown into it.